When my husband died in 2001, it took time to find my feet again: years of caring for him had taken a toll. One day I woke up and thought, “Right, now it’s my time”: you’ve got to make the most of the time you have left. I did a computer course, tried skydiving, then gave drag racing a go. My sixtysomething son and I drive up to the courses together, then he jumps out and I take the wheel. I get such a buzz from it; I’m never happy if I cross the line at under 100mph. Nothing has gone wrong so far.
Loved it, but on the other hand, she doesn’t have a passenger seat with a spouse continually saying, “Slow down I’m feeling nauseous.”
Many years ago I was queuing for tickets at a railway station in Rome, and got talking to an elderly American behind me. He was heading down to Brindisi to catch a ferry, and spend the summer island-hopping around the Mediterranean. He told me that when he retired he had spent 10 years visiting places around the US, then started venturing abroad, for the first time in his life. He was now almost 80 - traveling alone. We talked for only maybe 10 minutes - but I often think about him.
Actually we’re not far either from the ‘Vieilles Charrues’ - the French Glastonbury - which reminds me of an old ‘Clare in the Community’ Radio 4 programme:
Clare goes to visit a very elderly man, who is weeping over his war medals.
“Oh it was terrible Clare” he says, “The incessant pounding noise, the flashes lighting up the whole sky, the mud everywhere, just a sea of mud… it was terrible… terrible…”
“Yes Mr Strudwick” Clare replies, “But not many 90-year-olds go to Glastonbury.”
I liked Clare in the Community. Is it still going? Wasn’t the ever suffering Brian her husband. The au pair was funny too. I really do think BBC radio four is Britain at its best. I now stream it from my phone to the car radio. You and yours, the World at One, etc. etc. Much as I also enjoy ÇA PEUT VOUS ARRIVER and LES GROSSES TÊTES on RTL.
I still listen to Radio 4 occasionally (over the internet) but for various reasons (convenience, lifestyle changes, etc) not often. You’re probably right about it representing Britain at its best - though I also think it has gradually declined in quality, especially the news / current affairs coverage.
I listen to a French station - ‘Culture’ - when alone in the car - it is a bit like Radio 4 if you like the Melvyn Bragg kind of programme, but is pretty unremittingly highbrow - almost no comedy or drama for instance.
BBC’s ‘Just a Minute’ has been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember. Nicholas Parsons was an exemplar to any elderly man or woman believing advancing years would necessarily find them staring blankly at a television screen day in day out (oops repetition). I’m so happy it’s set to continue.
‘Following Parsons’ death, the BBC have confirmed that new episodes will be broadcast in 2021 with various guest hosts including Brandreth, Paul Merton, Stephen Fry, Jo Brand, Nish Kumar, Lucy Porter, Sue Perkins and Tom Allen.
I’ve got a few thirty year old video tapes of visual artists on the SBS, but my very favourite is where Bragg’s struggling to interview the french artist Christian Boltanski on the subject of death and Boltanski (big powerful guy with a shaved head and a slight air of menace), says, “Melvin, you are a very intelligent man - you probably even know where to buy the best meat pies in London, but if I were to kill you now, you’d just be a horrible mess on the floor!” Bragg’s face - unforgettable…